The impact of economic reforms in India has been a debated subject, with there being two sides to it. People like Jagdish Bhagwati, Arvind Panagariya and company have elaborated on the progress made because of private sector initiatives. The trickle-down theory has worked, as seen by the jobs created and the growth in consumerism. The solution is that the government should continue to provide such incentives to further the growth. Then there are people like Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen, who still feel that things are unequal and that there is a need for the government to take affirmative action to ensure that the poor are made less poor.
In between, there are a lot of statistics to show what all has happened despite the government being there, which has only added to the inefficiency wherever it is involved.
It is here that Dilip Hiro makes his contribution to the debate in his quite remarkable book, titled, Indians in a Globalizing World. His contention is more on the side of the antagonists of reforms, where he shows that, at the end of the day, the New Economic Policy (NEP), which was a part of the Washington Consensus followed after 1991, has aggrandised inequality. It has resulted in the rich being the main beneficiaries and the poor being left out or left just with illusions and tidbits in the form of the state spending money on social welfare programmes. In the process, we have created several success stories in a skewed economy tilted against agriculture, harnessed corruption of large magnitudes with the involvement of the government and the private sector, and generated a large population of have-nots, who, while being driven to the edge by the government-industry nexus, have fallen back on the support of terrorist outfits. This end result is far from being comfortable.
The way Hiro builds the case in the 10 chapters is interesting. The narrative starts with the township of Gurgaon, which is representative of everything that reforms and their consequences are about. There are several offices and residential complexes that have come up in Gurgaon, which show the affluence. The back-office call centres represent the globalisation and the absence of infrastructure displays the lacunae still in the system. The growth of slums and the disparity in incomes across these settlements and the super-affluent complexes tell us everything about what the new economic policies have achieved. More importantly,